In the post-millennia world of remakes, Assault on Precinct 13 gets a surprisingly solid high score thanks to some well-handled tense action and characters that are just juicy enough to make the audience give a damn. One thing this rehash isn't is tame -- this is one violent shoot 'em-up where main characters are killed off while many others are offed in jarring and bloody ways. Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne make for a decent enough buddy pairing, though it's Hawke who keeps the film together from his spastic opening scene through his pill-popping exchanges with Maria Bello. In fact, the strong female characters give the film another notch on its scoreboard with Bello and Drea de Matteo holding their own, despite being surrounded by methed-up junkies like John Leguizamo (whose samurai sword scene gets high gonzo marks) and Ja Rule as Smiley, your friendly neighborhood thug with a penchant for baseball bats and third-person speak. When it comes down to it though, a great action movie survives because of its director, and acclaimed Frenchman Jean-François Richet certainly does not disappoint. Along with Brian De Palma's longtime editor Bill Pankow, Richet handles the action almost perfectly, which thankfully means little shaky-cam during the gunfights in favor of much-needed spatial positioning of the camera. There are a few downsides that this assault does have to answer for -- the first being that Gabriel Byrne's character is completely needless, bringing the film to a halt every time he and his goons show up to "talk" about how clever the people inside are. Also, the film's climax features a forest...in the middle of downtown Detroit! Not only is that a blatant lie, but it is never shown in any of the overhead shots of the building, which the forest is supposedly right behind. Those bellyaches aside, this is one assault that shouldn't be written off simply because of its nature but rather should be enjoyed as its own little slice of overly violent action joy.
by Jeremy Wheeler review